Brazil: It Ends the UNCTAD of the Discontent

     Brazil: It Ends the UNCTAD 
of the Discontent

    For the Secretary of
    Environment and Development from the
    state of Amazonas, in Brazil, is a tremendous absurd for the
    whole world to say that the Brazilian forest should be preserved,

    because of its value in natural terms. People have to remember

    those who live in the forest, he said, in unacceptable poverty.

    by: Eduardo

    "Once more it was confirmed that the market is placed ahead of the citizen,"
    affirmed the general coordinator of the Brazilian Network for the Integration
    of Peoples (Rebrip), Iara Pietricovsky, in a collective interview at the conclusion
    of Brazil’s Civil Society Forum. She was analyzing the weeklong meeting of
    the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which ended
    June 18 in São Paulo.

    Magalli Pazello, representing
    the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) linked to women, was another person
    disappointed with the final results of the UNCTAD XI meeting. She complained
    that women were viewed more as "object than subject."

    "What happens is
    that the interests of capital are white and masculine and therefore never
    concede anything to women," Pazello denounced. She also regretted that
    the UNCTAD XI concentrated its discussions on security.

    Paul Nehru Tennassee,
    from the World Labor Confederation, also criticized aspects of the final document
    issued by the UNCTAD XI. He lamented that, even though they were frequently
    alluded to in the speeches made by invited officials, "the goals for
    generating employment were not even mentioned in the document." For this
    reason, he recommended that the new UNCTAD Secretary-General, who will be
    named shortly, "recover the lost time and space."

    The final document of
    the Civil Society Forum indicates certain "qualities" for the next
    UNCTAD Secretary-General. Among them, he (or she) should have "the highest
    moral and ethical standards" and be committed to "recovering the
    lost space, realigning priorities in light of the apparent awakening of the
    South-South keynote, supporting the brain gain by countries in the South,
    and determining goals for job creation in the world."

    Women at Work

    Earlier in the week, the
    United Nations (UN) had issued a report on the situation of women in the labor
    markets of developing countries. The document, entitled "Trade and Gender:
    Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries," was presented
    during a session of debates.

    The study shows that female
    participation in the labor markets of South American countries rose from 26
    percent to 45 percent in the last 25 years. In Brazil, this index went from
    39 percent in 1993 to 41 percent in 2001 (a transformation similar to what
    occurred in Japan over the same time span).

    The sectors in which the
    female presence is greatest in Brazil continue to be services and community
    and social work. Over half the labor force (59 percent) in these areas has
    been made up of women for the last eight years. This is not true of areas
    like construction, transportation, and telecommunications.

    The report cites a babassu
    palm project in the Brazilian state of Maranhão as an example of the
    participation of women in the extractive industry. Countries in northern Africa
    and western Asia did not receive such high acclaim from the UN consultants.
    In these locales, only one in every three women is economically active.

    Even in economically successful
    places, such as Hong Kong, South Korea, and Malaysia, men continue to dominate
    nearly 70 percent of the labor market, and they form an absolute majority
    in the most lucrative fields.

    In all the countries analyzed
    by the United Nations, men still receive twice as much as women, who comprise
    the majority of the informal labor market. Around 60 percent of the planet’s
    550 million poorest workers are female.

    "We shall analyze
    these problems and try to suggest ways to resolve them," affirmed Rubens
    Ricúpero, Secretary-General of the UNCTAD. "Indeed, we believe
    that a well-planned trade stimulus can help reduce the inequalities in income
    and gender," he said.

    Tropical Forest

    The world’s use of wood
    extracted from the Amazon forest was another theme debated at the UNCTAD in
    a meeting sponsored by the International Tropic Timber Organization (ITTO).

    The governor of the Brazilian
    state of Acre, Jorge Viana, one of the people invited to discuss their experiences
    with forest management and the commercial exploitation of tropical wood for
    export, assured that "the lumber trade in Brazil, which did US$ 6 million
    worth of business last year, will soon be the chief rival of the agricultural
    sector." The governor observed that sustainable management is important,
    but one should not forget the local community, which needs to be helped.

    "There is a large
    and dangerous gap," Viana said, "between those who industrialize
    wood and the suppliers of raw material withdrawn from our forests, a gap which
    needs to be diminished, because local communities cannot endure receiving
    the current paltry sums."

    The governor of Acre also
    stated, during the UNCTAD debate, that "the best way to conserve our
    Amazon forest is by making sustainable use of it, through certified products."

    For his part, the Secretary
    of Environment and Development from the state of Amazonas, Virgílio
    Viana, who also participated in the debate on tropical wood for export, said
    that he considers it "a tremendous absurdity for the whole world to say
    that our forest has to be preserved, because it is very valuable in natural
    terms, without remembering the people who live there, frequently in conditions
    of unacceptable poverty."

    The Secretary from Amazonas
    presented a proposal to reduce tariffs and taxes on certified forest products,
    so that they can attain competitive prices on the international market. The
    governor of Acre, in support of this proposal, recalled that certification
    of forest products already exists but "is still insufficient."

    Virgílio Viana
    said that great care must be taken "to avoid what is happening in São
    Paulo, with the elimination of the Atlantic Rain Forest." He declared
    that "tourism that degrades is of no interest to Amazônia"
    and, also, that it is necessary to have the wealth obtained by tourism companies
    shared with the local population.

    First and Third Worlds

    When it comes to international
    agricultural trade, it is unfair to apply the same rules to developed countries,
    where agribusinesses receive government subsidies, and developing countries
    which lack adequate production conditions. This was another argument presented
    at the Civil Society Forum held parallel to the 11th meeting of the United
    Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

    Glayson Soares, representing
    the Forum for the Organization of Ethical and Solidary Trade (Faces), explained
    that "unfair trade is that in which equal rules are used for unequal
    parties. When we have customs barriers and an international effort by the
    wealthier countries to block the entry of primary goods—the chief source
    of income for developing countries—and, at the same time, more finished
    products, the situation is unjust."

    Soares took part in the
    sessions on Fair Trade. "Fair trade is not the only alternative, but
    it has already demonstrated its impact on local economies. It is possible
    to have an appropriate value paid to producers, environmental sustainability,
    and a fair relationship between consumers and producers," he claims.

    His organization, Faces,
    has worked with producers who, one way or another, have already adopted the
    idea of fair trade, he explains. "In rural areas, relations should be
    more egalitarian. There is still an income differential between men and women—and
    we espouse rural ethics, men and women earning the same and having the same
    power to decide. It is clear that this doesn’t happen overnight, but this
    is our goal: a global endeavor with local impact."

    "We have serious
    criticisms with respect to the procedures of the World Trade Organization
    (WTO), which has not advanced in terms of benefiting the poor countries. The
    UNCTAD is an alternative for recasting world trade in favor of development,
    and governments should strengthen it. In addition, we should have national
    policies for the development of local economies," Soares affirmed.

    Eduardo Mamcasz works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
    agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at

    from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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